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Updated: February 2, 2012 19:45 IST

Take two: theatre

saraswathy nagarajan
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Revathy Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
The Hindu Revathy Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Actor-director Revathy talks about the play Afterlife of Birds, in which she plays a pivotal role. The play will be staged on Friday

Revathy does not believe in resting on her laurels. For years now, the award-winning film actor and director has been reinventing herself and her repertoire by constantly challenging her creativity through new projects in films and, now, theatre.

Beginning with children's theatre in Chennai, Revathy moved on to 1 Madhav Baug, a solo play written by Chetan Datar, and produced by Bangalore-based Ranga Shankara. Revathy is now busy with her latest play Afterlife of Birds.

“Theatre and cinema are completely diverse spaces. Yes, there is acting in both but the kind of acting involved is different. It is like working in two genres and I enjoy both,” says Revathy.

She plays a pivotal role in theatre director Abhishek Majumdar's play Afterlife of Birds, which explores the theme of displacement in the time of terror.

Displacement and terror

“It is a political play that investigates the movement of women due to political and personal reasons and also the impact that terror has on the lives of ordinary people, issues of human rights, and so on. It questions our notions of geographical boundaries, culture…,” explains Revathy.

She essays a character called Ajanthi, a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who is now settled in London. Ajanthi comes to India to meet her former comrade-in-arms and friend Niromi who is in jail.

“Niromi is enacted by veteran theatre actor Arundathi Nag. It has been a learning experience to work with her. Niromi has won a Presidential pardon and is about to be freed from prison. The entire play unfolds over one night, to be precise on January 25. Rasheed, a band commander in the Delhi police, is getting ready for his last parade as he is on the verge of retirement. That is when his son Mehtab gets dragged into controversies. The play is about how the lives of these characters get intertwined due to certain circumstances,” narrates Revathy.

She says she finds the drama and her character captivating as the entire play developed during workshops that were held for the play. “It was through discussions that the play evolved and everyone was so into it,” she recalls.

The title of the play derives it name from migratory birds that cross continents and countries in their annual passage. However, birds of passage move from place to place for a sanctuary called home. For instance, Ajanthi moves to London from Sri Lanka but she decides to come to India. “It is a play that highlights the violent times we live in and also refers to the fact we may be born in a particular place but die elsewhere. Most of the evolution of the characters is internal and that is what made it an interesting experience,” she adds.

Abhishek, artistic director of Indian Ensemble which is presenting the play ( he is a winner of the The Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award in 2008 for his play Harlesden High Street) says it was his work among migrant women that formed the thread of the play. “I was trying to find out why is that people, specifically women, move from place to place. I was talking to former LTTE members and was in touch with someone in Europe. The reason why these people were willing to travel was political. That was when the shootout at Batla house in Delhi happened (2008). I had been following it closely. The play derives it theme from these two subjects,” says Abhishek.

Why was Revathy cast in the play? “I think she is a fine actor and it has been interesting to work with her,” he adds. And Revathy makes it clear that theatre is here to stay and she will be working in plays while cinema will always be there.

Birds of passage

Although Revathy has staged 1 Madhav Baug in Kerala, this is the first time the city will get to see Revathy, the theatre actor. Afterlife of Birds will be performed today at Karthika Tirunal Theatre at 7 p.m. It is open to the public. This play won the Robert Bosch Arts grant for 2011.

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